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Legends of the Maori

Love Chants

Love Chants.

page 301

Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

NINETY years ago there lived on the cliff-top pa called Motutawa, Lake Rotoiti, a young chieftainess of the Ngati-Pikiao tribe, whose name was Rahera te Kahu-hiapo. Her father, Te Nia, was one of the chiefs of Motutawa, which in those days was a fortified place, defended with stockades and trenches on the landward side; on the level hilltop stood the carved meeting-house Tuau, named so after Te Nia’s father. At a gathering in that meeting-house Rahera met and fell in love with Te Ngaru (The Wave), a young chief of the Ngati-te-Takinga clan. But Te Ngaru was not favoured by the young girl’s family, and the pair were suddenly and violently parted by their unsympathetic elders. Te Nia and his people took the sorrowing Rahera away by canoe to the opposite side of the lake, to the hill pa Pukurahi—yon beautiful wooded headland that guards the entrance to Te Weta Bay. So the width of Rotoiti separated the lovers.

And Te Ngaru nightly sat on the cliff edge at Motutawa, gazing across the waters at the northern side, where the fires of Rahera’s village faintly glimmered through the dark, and as he sat and gazed he played melancholy love airs on his putorino, his wooden flute—another Tutanekai playing to his Hinemoa. And he composed and sang this waiata-aroha for Rahera:—

Tenei au kei te tiwa i Motutawa,
Kei Pukurahi i nga tami e ia maku ti e-i.

Ka ritorito te ahi ki Pukurahi; he ahi
Pai, e hine, nga tami e i maku ti e-i.

E titi ra e atarau ki Pukurahi,
Kopuretia ki nga tami e i maku ti e-i.

Tangi te rino, kihai to rino he karanga mo
Nga tami e ia maku ti e-i.


Lonely I sit
On Motutawa’s cliff,
Ever gazing towards Pukurahi,
Where dwells my love.

The fires burn low
On Pukurahi hill;
The moonlight beams
On Pukurahi hill;
By that pale light
Would we could love again!

My sad flute song
Floats out across the lake,
But thy lament
Ne’er falls upon mine ear.

So chanted Te Ngaru his love-song to the sleeping lake. At last it reached Rahera’s ears by tribal message, for Te Ngaru’s hapu heard and page 302 learned the young chief’s waiata. The lovers were never united; but whenever Rahera in after years revisited Rotoiti, the people delighted to chant the song in her honour. It was sung again and again at her tangihanga, her ceremonial wake, at Ngapeke, on the shores of Tauranga Harbour, where the venerable chieftainess was buried in the year 1910.

Sketch of Rahera te Kahu-hiapo, chieftainess of the Ngati-Pikiao tribe

page 303
Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

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page 305

Yon Enchanted Isle.

A Song for Whakaari.

This waiata was heard at Matata, Bay of Plenty, 1903, sung by an old man as he sat on the banks of Te-Awa-a-te-Atua, looking out across the sandhills and the sea to Whakaari (White Island). He compared the ceaseless fires of the volcano to his long-ago youthful love for the girl Hinehore.

Far o’er the sea
Whakaari’s snowy vapours curl
And poise in clouds on high.
From goblin torch those clouds arise,
The island Tipua’s* flames and smoke
Even like the ceaseless fires
Of yon enchanted isle
Burns my abiding love
For the young maid Hinehore.
Alas, only in fancy, only in words
Can I embrace her;
She is parted far from me.

* Tipua, a tutelar spirit; genius loci. In this case the volcanic forces of White Island personified.

page 306

The Last Look Back.

Puhi-Wahine’s Love Song.

On the hill-top village of Hikurangi (where a road from the Waipa to Kawhia goes up to the shoulder of Pirongia mountain) there lived, fifty years ago, a young chieftainess of the Ngati-Tuwharetoa tribe from Taupo, named Puhi-Wahine. She loved the cousin of the Maori king Tawhiao, a chief (who was also her own cousin) named Mahutu te Toko, a tall tattooed warrior, who had fought the pakeha in Taranaki and the Waikato. The course of true love did not run smoothly; Mahutu interrupted it by taking to himself another wife, whereupon Puhi-Wahine, wounded in heart and pride, rode away for her Taupo home. She crossed the Waipa valley, and on the third day of her journey she left Wairaka village, on the Wairaka stream near Orakau, and, ascending to the hill-top at Aratitaha, she halted and looked back at the distant peaks of Pirongia and Kakepuku. Her descent to the Waikato River on the southern side of Aratitaha would presently hide these mountains of the Waipa from her view. As she gazed on the blue cone of Kakepuku, beyond which her old lover dwelt, her anger died within her, and sorrow and affection came forth in a song of farewell. This was the waiata she chanted:

Ka eke ki Wairaka,
Ka titiro whakamuri;
Kati ko te aroha
Te tapui i Kakepuku.
Kia rere arorangi
Te tihi ki Pirongia,
Kei raro koe, e Toko!
Taku hoa tungane.
Naku ano koe
Huri atu ki muri,
Mokai te ngakau
Te whakatau iho
Kia po ruatia
E awhi kiri ana.

Kati au ka hoki
Ki toku whenua tupu,
Te wai-koropupu,
E ki a mai nei
I Hawaiki ra ano,
No Ngatoro-i-rangi,
I hu ra i Tongariro
Ka mahana ki tana kiri.
Na Rangi mai ano
Nana i marena,
Ko Pihanga te wahine,
Ai hu, ai hau,
Ai marangai kiri,
Ki te muri e-i!
Kokiri e!


As up I climb from Wairaka,
I pause upon the mountain-side
For one last longing backward look,
My farewell gaze!
Cease, O my sorrow!
For my lost loved one
Far off ‘neath Kakepuku hill.
Yet, would that I could fly,
Soar as a bird to Pirongia’s crest,
For there below thou dwellest,
Toko, my cousin lover—
Ah! still my heart goes forth to thee.

Cease, O my sorrow! for I now shall go
Home to my childhood’s land,
To my sacred land where the soft waters
Bubble up in fountains of enchantment.
From sacred fires those hot-springs rise,
On Tongariro’s height where magic flames
From far Hawaiki came—
The saving flame of Ngatoro-i-rangi,
The fire that warmed the chieftain’s frame.
Pihanga* was the wife (of Tongariro);
They unite in the smoky clouds
Breathed from the mountain’s pit,
They embrace in the storm-wind Marangai—
So darts my love to him I leave behind!

page 307

Sketch of Puhi-Wahine, chieftainess of the Ngati-Tuwharetoa tribe from Taupo

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Maori artifact

* Pihanga mountain, the beautiful wooded range between Lake Taupo Roto-a-Ira, is in local Maori mythology the wife of Mt. Tongariro. Tongariro (includ-ing Ngauruhoe volcano) was the victor in the battle of the mountains for the favour of fair Pihanga.